February 23, 2023

CNN’s Don Lemon was back on the air Wednesday, less than a week after misogynistic comments landed him in trouble with the network.

Apparently Lemon (or CNN) didn’t feel the need to address his controversial remarks on the air, and maybe he and CNN are hoping this whole thing blows over.

But, frankly, this is turning out to be quite the mess.

Last Thursday, while co-hosting “CNN This Morning” and talking about 51-year-old GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley, Lemon said Haley was not “in her prime.” He added a woman is considered in her prime when she is “in her 20s, 30s and maybe her 40s.”


Just imagine what his female co-workers thought. Not to mention all the female viewers.

After the broadcast, Lemon tweeted, “The reference I made to a woman’s ‘prime’ this morning was inartful and irrelevant, as colleagues and loved ones have pointed out, and I regret it. A woman’s age doesn’t define her either personally or professionally. I have countless women in my life who prove that every day.”

That was not the end of it.

Lemon, reportedly, was scheduled to be off Friday, but his comments drew the negative attention of his CNN bosses and Lemon was off the air Monday and Tuesday as well. On a conference call with staff last Friday, CNN chairman Chris Licht said he was “disappointed” with Lemon’s remarks, adding that they were “upsetting, unacceptable and unfair to his co-hosts, and ultimately a huge distraction to the great work of this organization.”

Lemon apologized on that call, and Licht said Lemon had agreed to participate in formal training.

Then, before taking the air on Wednesday’s “CNN This Morning,” Lemon tweeted, “I appreciate the opportunity to be back on @CNNThisMorning today. To my network, my colleagues and our incredible audience — I’m sorry. I’ve heard you, I’m learning from you, and I’m committed to doing better. See you soon.”

However, at no point during Wednesday’s broadcast did Lemon or anyone else mention his comments or why he was not on the air this week before Wednesday. Maybe that was Lemon’s call. Maybe CNN told him not to.

Either way, it continues to be a problem.

Was this latest incident a fireable offense? In my opinion, no. But you have to wonder how it’s going over inside the walls of CNN. We do have some hints.

The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona wrote, “According to some CNN insiders who spoke with The Daily Beast, the slap on the wrist for Lemon over his antics isn’t sitting well with much of the staff — especially since this has now become a well-established trend for the veteran journalist.”

This is not the first time that Lemon has said something controversial about women on “CNN This Morning,” which debuted only last November. A month after the newscast was on the air, Lemon said the U.S. men’s national soccer team should be paid more than the U.S. women even though the women have had far greater international success.

Despite pushback from co-hosts Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins, Lemon said, “But the men’s team makes more money. If they make more money, then they should get more money. The men’s team makes more money because people are more interested in the men!”

Baragona reports that one female CNN on-air personality told him this week that people at the network are “fuming” and question whether training will work with Lemon.

A CNN producer told Baragona, “No one is happy to work here right now. What formal training could he possibly get that would make him feel actual regret for having said the anachronistic and misogynistic thing he said, repeatedly, on national television?”

The producer added, “No one thinks that training is enough of a punishment. If you wanna make a point about your values as a network, you suspend someone without pay.”

The Los Angeles Times’ Stephen Battaglio wrote, “Lemon is popular with many of his co-workers at CNN, but is known for occasionally making gaffes that can set social media aflame. The internal talk among CNN staffers is that he cannot survive another one.”

Variety’s Brian Steinberg wrote, “Behind the scenes, the anchor was apologetic, according to a person familiar with the matter, and acknowledged the mistake he had made. CNN executives, this person says, conceded that ‘CNN This Morning’ remains a work in progress and expressed hope that a new executive producer slated to come on board would bring new leadership to the show.”

One more thing, as The Washington Post’s Jeremy Barr points out, is that “CNN This Morning” is lagging behind in the ratings. According to Nielsen, the show averaged 372,00 total viewers in January — well behind Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” (1.2 million viewers) and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” (827,000).

At the end of her column in The Washington Post, Monica Hesse wrote, “Good journalists are curious about the world around them. They are interested in societal changes. In what is fair, what is accurate, what is just and in how understanding those concepts can change as we all evolve. Good journalists pay attention to things. It’s the bare minimum of the profession. Don Lemon didn’t pay attention. He didn’t pay attention to the fact that his dismissive old-women tropes were no longer acceptable, that they would reflect badly on himself and would harm his colleagues. It definitely makes me question how great he is on women’s issues. It kinda makes me question how great he is at his job.”

Breaking news: journalists shot

Horrible news out of Central Florida. Two journalists for a TV station in Orlando were shot at the scene of a homicide investigation on Wednesday. Orange County Sheriff John Mina said one of the two has died. The journalists were from Spectrum News 13. In addition, a 9-year-old was also shot and killed.

According to reports, the journalists were on the scene of a homicide investigation where, earlier in the day, a woman had been shot. A 19-year-old man, Keith Melvin Moses, walked up to the Spectrum News van around 4:05 p.m. and shot a reporter and photographer. Both were rushed to the hospital where one was pronounced dead and the other was listed, as of Wednesday night, in critical condition. Names of the journalists had not been made public as of late Wednesday.

Moses then, according to Mina, went into a nearby house and shot a 9-year-old girl and her mother. The child was killed, and the mother was hospitalized in critical condition.

Mina said Moses is now in custody, and that Moses was also suspected in the first shooting earlier in the day. In a press conference, Mina said, “Why he shot them in that house (is) really unclear as to why he shot the news vehicle as well.”

Mina added, “What a horrible day this has been for our community and our media partners. No one in our community, not a mother, not a 9-year-old, certainly not news professionals, should become the victim of gun violence in our community.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre tweeted, “Our hearts go out to the family of the journalist killed today and the crew member injured in Orange County, Florida, as well as the whole Spectrum News team.”

CNN tweeted, “The shooting of journalists in Florida today who were doing their jobs and serving the local community is an absolute tragedy. CNN stands with our affiliate partner, Spectrum News 13, and will support them and the families of these journalists in any way we can.”

Here’s an emotional report from one of the local media members on the scene, who said, “This is every reporter’s absolutely worst nightmare. We go home at night afraid something like this will occur.”

Spectrum 13’s Celeste Springer said on air “this is extremely devastating for all of us.” Springer also asked viewers to say a prayer for her other colleague who is hospitalized.

Charter Communications, the parent company of Spectrum News, released a statement that said, “We are deeply saddened by the loss of our colleague and the other lives senselessly taken today. Our thoughts are with our employer’s family, friends and co-workers during this very difficult time. We remain hopeful that our other colleague who was injured makes a full recovery. This is a terrible tragedy for the Orlando community.”

Here are the latest details from Spectrum News 13. My colleague, Al Tompkins, also wrote about it.

Grim layoff news

More depressing layoff news. NPR will lay off about 10% of its workforce — about 100 people or so — while eliminating most vacant positions. CEO John Lansing blamed dwindling ad revenue as the main reason for the cuts.

In a memo to staff, Lansing wrote, “When we say we are eliminating filled positions, we are talking about our colleagues — people whose skills, spirit and talents help make NPR what it is today. This will be a major loss.”

NPR’s annual budget is around $300 million, but Lansing reports that revenues could fall short by somewhere between $30 million and $32 million.

Lansing told NPR’s David Folkenflik, “We’re not seeing signs of a recovery in the advertising market. Nothing is nailed down yet except the principles and what we know we have to reach.”

Lansing told Folkenflik that the cuts won’t be spread out evenly among all departments. He said, “I don’t anticipate that it would be like a haircut across every division, because that’s just not management. Management is about committing to strategy, making tough decisions.”

Decisions on where the cuts will occur are expected to be announced by March 20.

Friedman on Fox News

In a column about GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley, New York Times opinion columnist Thomas L. Friedman had a pretty good line about Fox News:

We all sort of knew the truth about Fox, but now there can be no doubt: Fox News is to journalism what the Mafia is to capitalism — same basic genre, but a morally corrupt perversion of the real thing.

Friedman was referring to how documents in the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit against Fox showed that some of Fox News’ biggest on-air personalities weren’t buying the 2020 election fraud claims made by Donald Trump and his advisers, but they sang a different tune on the air.

The point of Friedman’s column was that Haley is playing to the Fox News crowd.

Friedman wrote, “The woman whose family immigration story could have so linked up with a concrete strategy for American renewal, the woman whose political courage in taking down the Confederate flag could have served as the perfect opening message to bring more minorities into the G.O.P., chose instead to do a bad imitation of Ron DeSantis. Why? Because like Hannity, Ingraham, Carlson and the Murdochs, Haley was more interested in following the Fox base than shaping it, let alone leading it to a better place.”

Remembering a legend

Tim McCarver accepts the 2012 Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in baseball broadcasting as part of the Baseball Hall of Fame Induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, N.Y., in 2012. (AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth)

I meant to mention this before now, but Tim McCarver, one of the most prominent Major League Baseball television analysts of all time, died last week due to heart failure. He was 81.

McCarver was a solid catcher, playing 21 seasons in the majors for the St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies. But he might be better known for his broadcasting career.

McCarver called baseball on local and national TV for nearly 40 years. Nationally, he called 29 postseasons, including 24 World Series. He mostly worked alongside Joe Buck, calling 16 World Series and 15 All-Star Games from 1996 to 2013. McCarver, who also worked with Joe Buck’s father Jack, retired from all broadcasting in 2022.

With his soft Southern accent, the Memphis-born McCarver had the knack for explaining the nuances and intricacies of the game to even the most casual of fans. Yet he also wasn’t afraid to be critical of players, managers and Major League Baseball.

Joe Buck once told The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch, “I’ve learned more from him than anybody I have been around in this business, including my father.”

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal wrote, “Tim’s enthusiasm for the game never wavered. He worked to prepare for each broadcast, harder than most viewers imagined.”

Also check out this excellent obit from The New York Times’ Bruce Weber.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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